Anna karenina, p.89
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       Anna Karenina, p.89

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 20

  Vronsky's life was particularly happy in that he had a code ofprinciples, which defined with unfailing certitude what he ought andwhat he ought not to do. This code of principles covered only a verysmall circle of contingencies, but then the principles were neverdoubtful, and Vronsky, as he never went outside that circle, had neverhad a moment's hesitation about doing what he ought to do. Theseprinciples laid down as invariable rules: that one must pay acardsharper, but need not pay a tailor; that one must never tell a lieto a man, but one may to a woman; that one must never cheat anyone, butone may a husband; that one must never pardon an insult, but one maygive one and so on. These principles were possibly not reasonable andnot good, but they were of unfailing certainty, and so long as headhered to them, Vronsky felt that his heart was at peace and he couldhold his head up. Only quite lately in regard to his relations withAnna, Vronsky had begun to feel that his code of principles did notfully cover all possible contingencies, and to foresee in the futuredifficulties and perplexities for which he could find no guiding clue.

  His present relation to Anna and to her husband was to his mind clearand simple. It was clearly and precisely defined in the code ofprinciples by which he was guided.

  She was an honorable woman who had bestowed her love upon him, and heloved her, and therefore she was in his eyes a woman who had a right tothe same, or even more, respect than a lawful wife. He would have hadhis hand chopped off before he would have allowed himself by a word, bya hint, to humiliate her, or even to fall short of the fullest respect awoman could look for.

  His attitude to society, too, was clear. Everyone might know, mightsuspect it, but no one might dare to speak of it. If any did so, he wasready to force all who might speak to be silent and to respect thenon-existent honor of the woman he loved.

  His attitude to the husband was the clearest of all. From the momentthat Anna loved Vronsky, he had regarded his own right over her as theone thing unassailable. Her husband was simply a superfluous andtiresome person. No doubt he was in a pitiable position, but how couldthat be helped? The one thing the husband had a right to was to demandsatisfaction with a weapon in his hand, and Vronsky was prepared forthis at any minute.

  But of late new inner relations had arisen between him and her, whichfrightened Vronsky by their indefiniteness. Only the day before she hadtold him that she was with child. And he felt that this fact and whatshe expected of him called for something not fully defined in that codeof principles by which he had hitherto steered his course in life. Andhe had been indeed caught unawares, and at the first moment when shespoke to him of her position, his heart had prompted him to beg her toleave her husband. He had said that, but now thinking things over he sawclearly that it would be better to manage to avoid that; and at the sametime, as he told himself so, he was afraid whether it was not wrong.

  "If I told her to leave her husband, that must mean uniting her lifewith mine; am I prepared for that? How can I take her away now, when Ihave no money? Supposing I could arrange.... But how can I take her awaywhile I'm in the service? If I say that--I ought to be prepared to doit, that is, I ought to have the money and to retire from the army."

  And he grew thoughtful. The question whether to retire from the serviceor not brought him to the other and perhaps the chief though hiddeninterest of his life, of which none knew but he.

  Ambition was the old dream of his youth and childhood, a dream which hedid not confess even to himself, though it was so strong that now thispassion was even doing battle with his love. His first steps in theworld and in the service had been successful, but two years before hehad made a great mistake. Anxious to show his independence and toadvance, he had refused a post that had been offered him, hoping thatthis refusal would heighten his value; but it turned out that he hadbeen too bold, and he was passed over. And having, whether he liked ornot, taken up for himself the position of an independent man, he carriedit off with great tact and good sense, behaving as though he bore nogrudge against anyone, did not regard himself as injured in any way, andcared for nothing but to be left alone since he was enjoying himself. Inreality he had ceased to enjoy himself as long ago as the year before,when he went away to Moscow. He felt that this independent attitude of aman who might have done anything, but cared to do nothing, was alreadybeginning to pall, that many people were beginning to fancy that he wasnot really capable of anything but being a straightforward, good-naturedfellow. His connection with Madame Karenina, by creating so muchsensation and attracting general attention, had given him a freshdistinction which soothed his gnawing worm of ambition for a while, buta week before that worm had been roused up again with fresh force. Thefriend of his childhood, a man of the same set, of the same coterie, hiscomrade in the Corps of Pages, Serpuhovskoy, who had left school withhim and had been his rival in class, in gymnastics, in their scrapes andtheir dreams of glory, had come back a few days before from CentralAsia, where he had gained two steps up in rank, and an order rarelybestowed upon generals so young.

  As soon as he arrived in Petersburg, people began to talk about him as anewly risen star of the first magnitude. A schoolfellow of Vronsky's andof the same age, he was a general and was expecting a command, whichmight have influence on the course of political events; while Vronsky,independent and brilliant and beloved by a charming woman though he was,was simply a cavalry captain who was readily allowed to be asindependent as ever he liked. "Of course I don't envy Serpuhovskoy andnever could envy him; but his advancement shows me that one has only towatch one's opportunity, and the career of a man like me may be veryrapidly made. Three years ago he was in just the same position as I am.If I retire, I burn my ships. If I remain in the army, I lose nothing.She said herself she did not wish to change her position. And with herlove I cannot feel envious of Serpuhovskoy." And slowly twirling hismustaches, he got up from the table and walked about the room. His eyesshone particularly brightly, and he felt in that confident, calm, andhappy frame of mind which always came after he had thoroughly faced hisposition. Everything was straight and clear, just as after former daysof reckoning. He shaved, took a cold bath, dressed and went out.

 
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